The Lodovico treatment

The Antinori brothers, Piero and Lodovico, the 26th generation of Italy's first family of wine, are ready to launch their joint venture, Campo di Sasso Distribuzioni. Christian Davis meets the man entrusted with international sales and marketing
27 August, 2008
Page 18 
For aficionados of Italian wine, the Antinori dynasty is royalty. In fact, Piero is a marchese - the equivalent of a marquess or marquis and the family can trace its roots back to Florence in the 13th century. But more currently and pertinently, these brothers are responsible for two of Italy's most famous and  expensive wines - Piero's Tignanello and Lodovico's Tenuta dell'Ornellaia - both IGT super Tuscans to use the parlance of the oeonlogical cogn oscenti.

The new project, Campo di Sasso (which means field of stones) Distribuzioni (CSD), is a joint venture between the two brothers who fell out many years ago, resulting in Ludovico going off in the early 80s to create Ornellaia.

CSD is the brainchild of Lodovico, who, at 65 is the younger of the two , reunited with his brother and has been working on the project since 2002.

So the story goes , back in 1994 Lodovico was looking for land to extend Ornellaia and discovered Tenuta di Biserno - in southern Tuscany's Upper Maremma in the Bolgheri DOC, about 5km from the sea near Bibbona. The geology was so distinct that he decided to make it a stand-alone project. Having sold Ornellaia to Robert Mondavi, Biserno became Lodovico's new passion.

CSD's portfolio comprises wines from the Tenuta di Biserno estate and from New Zealand - on his travels Lodovico fell in love with Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc and bought an estate in the Wairau Valley in Marlborough, New Zealand's great Sauvignon Blanc growing district. The wide open plains and rolling hills once populated predominately by sheep, is now almost entirely given over to grape growing.

The estate, to the south of Blenheim not far from Cloudy Bay - the actual bay not the iconic brand, so far has about 13 hectares planted.

The job of explaining what the new company is doing and, more importantly, getting the wines to market, falls to a man - well known certainly in UK wine circles - Peter Ferguson.

Ferguson has worked for the likes of Veuve Clicquot, Mentzendorff, the Bollinger/Taylor's-owned UK agency, the Robert Mondavi Winery, MCD UK, the sales and distribution company of Champagne Lanson and latterly European sales director for the Californina wine producer, Jackson Wine Estates.

According to the 50 year old, who is international sales and marketing director, the thing that inspired the maverick Antinori, who is said to be champion skier, art collector and a first -class horseman with a stud farm in the US, is Cabernet Franc - Italian Cabernet Franc. He sees the 90 h a as perfect for Bordeaux varietals and it has been planted with 24ha of Merlot, 23 ha of Cabernet Sauvignon, 19ha of Cabernet Franc, 11ha of Petit Verdot and 11 ha of Syrah. To fulfil his dream for Biserno, he brought in famous French consultant Michel Rolland to advise on winemaking.

There are currently two Italian wines - Insoglio del Cinghiale and Il Pino di Biserno (see panel), with a third, Biserno, which will be the flagship still in barrel, but should be available by spring 2009 . There are also two from New Zealand, Mount Nelson, a Sauvignon Blanc and oak-aged Ram's Hill.

"Lodovico is looking for elegance and restraint in his wines," says Ferguson, "not a mouth -filling blockbuster . He is looking for layers of flavours, from sushi to sirloin. He wants big, but delicate, flavours ."

"He is determined to establish Tenuta di Biserno and Mount Nelson on the world stage as major new wines ," says Ferguson. " He has a creative streak and a vision to make complex and interesting wines. Plus he has the connections and the resources to make it happen."

Comment

Christian Davis

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